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by Kerrie More 13 days ago in dog

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Dog

Without a doubt, Otis was a once-in-a-lifetime dog. When he came into our lives, our older dog, Hondo, was beginning to slow down. My husband argued that getting a younger dog might be good for him-- help keep him active-- but I wasn’t completely on board. Hondo had always been a lone soul. Besides, getting a new dog was bound to be a lot of work. However, when my mother-in-law needed surgery 400 miles away, my husband made the trip to be with her. When he returned, he surprised me with a bright-eyed little border collie. He says there was an animal shelter not far from the hospital, and well, he had a little down time. Since it was my birthday, he reasoned that Otis was my special gift, and I didn’t have time to be upset, because I took one look at his golden brown eyes and fell in love immediately.

There were a few minor hurdles as Otis (aka Odie) joined our family-- the blanket that was ripped to shreds, the back fence that he easily scaled-- several times, and the never ending string of dead animals he discovered, with much delight, in the woods. (Oh, and there was that one time when he peed on my uncle’s leg.) He quickly outgrew his puppy-stage and became my constant shadow, my eager walking partner and the comforting presence on the floor next to my side of the bed.

He brought us never ending joy and never failed to make us laugh. Like when he got the “crazies” in the backyard-- especially after the first snowfall of the season-- racing around in circles at top-speed. Or the way he would hunker down in a cool lake after a long, hot hike-- a look of pure contentment on his face. Odie was wonderful with little kids, he never begged for food and always slept through the night. And, unlike most dogs, when he looked at you, he held your gaze-- seemingly peering into your soul. Ten years with this gentle boy passed in the blink of an eye.

Of course, I had said good-bye to pets before. I knew the drill. One of my childhood dogs had been hit by a car in front of our house, and my parents had our German Shepherd, Rider, put to sleep when I was away at summer camp. When my kitty Zena was diagnosed with a tumor and declined rapidly, my grief was deep and frightening. And the day my husband called me at work, to tell me it was time to let go of Hondo, was one of the hardest days we have endured as a couple. I had been through this before, and yet, when it was Odie’s time, every emotion felt raw, unfair and completely foreign.

Odie’s departure was swift and brave. Afterward, I would open the door after a long day expecting him to round the corner with his tail wagging. Sometimes, I would reach over the side of the bed expecting to feel his warm, sleeping body, and my mind played tricks on me imagining that I could hear his footsteps on our hardwood floor.

It’s been a year now, and we have been able to let go of the despair and disbelief that permeated the weeks and months after his death. We have both said, “I never want to go through this pain ever again.” But we both know it’s really only a matter of time. There are still those lump-in-the-throat moments, but the process of letting go has been eased by hanging on to our special, funny, one-of-a kind memories.

We recall the goofy way he would eat his dog biscuits-- holding them between his paws and daintily taking several small bites. When my husband was out of town last week, I missed the way Odie would always sleep with his head propped on the vacant pillow claiming the empty space for himself. Just last night I reminded my husband about Odie’s habit of making a single, gentle swipe on the back door when he wanted to be let in, and this morning he said, “Remember how Odie would rub his face in the snow after eating his dinner?” With each recollection, we pause and savor the moment. We let ourselves smile and feel grateful for his sweet soul and our years of companionship knowing there will never be another one quite like him.

Kerrie More
Kerrie More
Read next: What is Pet Insurance?
Kerrie More

I am a librarian struggling with too many creative interests and a stack of books I will never finish. When my nose isn't in a book, I can be found writing, puttering in my craft room, or exploring nature through the lens of my camera.

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